Gary Guller: Greetings from the tiny village of Monjo at 9,300 ft. We are
just before the entrance gate of the Sagarmatha (Everest) National Park.
The last few days have been busy getting this expedition team up the hill.
Everyone thus far is remaining healthy, happy and very, very positive.
We had a great day today
trekking from Phakding along the Dudh Kosi ("Milk River") and crossing
suspension bridges over the river. The support and encouragement the team
is receiving from the Sherpa, the Nepalis and all the good folks and
climbers from around the globe we've encountered on the trail has been
incredible. We've strolled, rolled, trekked, carried, pushed, pulled,
laughed and cried together as we continue hour after hour, day after day
We discussed last night
that what we are achieving as a team is huge on so many levels. The entire
team - the members, the supporters, the Sherpa, the porters and even the
dzopkios (yak + cow) - are showing just how powerful working together as a
team can be and what we can achieve.
We are definitely pushing
the envelope in so many ways, but all the members of the team know too
well that it takes powerful actions to get powerful results. Team Everest
'03 is making waves and raising disability awareness to new heights - and
not just in altitude! The most important things I know thus far is that
the potential of people with
is truly unlimited and that all people should have the right to explore
life to their fullest potential.
Tomorrow is a big day as
we head to the Sherpa capital, Namche Bazaar (11,283 ft). Here, we'll take
a couple of days for acclimatizing to the increased altitude, exploring
the area and enjoying a much deserved rest. You are in our hearts and your
support keeps us going. Disability awareness to the top of the world! -
Near Everest, a familiar face / Austin man reunited with Sherpa guide who
helped him in '92
By Lee Hancock / The Dallas Morning News
PHAKDING, Nepal – For
Gene Rodgers, seeing Tsering Sherpa on his first day in the high Himalayas
made all the difference. The 47-year-old Austin man, one of 10 Americans
with disabilities who are trekking to base camp at Mount Everest, was
barely off the plane from Katmandu when he saw the Sherpa man who guided
his first visit to Nepal more than 10 years ago.
Mr. Rodgers has little
movement below his neck since a fall off a cliff damaged his spinal cord
when he was 17.
He rides in a wheelchair,
and on his first trek to the remote Himalayan kingdom in 1992, he was
carried in a modified bamboo basket (called a doko) by a group of porters
led by Tsering Sherpa.
Sherpa uses his ethnic group's name for his last name, as do all Sherpa
people who live in the Khumbu and Solu regions near Everest.
Mr. Rodgers heard last
year that the Austin-based Coalition for Texans with Disabilities was
organizing a trek to Mount Everest, and signed up immediately. He
explained to the group's leader, Austin climber Gary Guller, how he was
carried in a doko on his previous trek.
But he said they talked
little about logistics over the subsequent nine months before leaving for
Nepal, so "I was concerned about how it would go."
The group arrived by
plane Thursday to start the journey at Lukla, a village at about 9,000
feet that is the jumping off point for many Western treks through the
Mr. Guller is leading 26
people from the United States and Canada. Two Sherpa men with disabilities
are accompanying the group.
After the trek ends in
mid-April, Mr. Guller and three American and Canadian climbers will
continue up the mountain in hopes of reaching the summit. If he succeeds,
Mr. Guller will be the first person with one arm to reach the world's
After the arrival at
Lukla, Sherpa men hired to help with the Team Everest 03 Challenge Trek
helped carry Mr. Rodgers and four other team members off the plane and up
steps to the main village trail.
"As I came through the
gate, this Sherpa was pushing, pulling, carrying me. Some of these guys
looked familiar to me, some of the guys who had worked for Tsering," Mr.
Rodgers said. "We came up here to where the tents were. I look up and see
this guy. I said it looks like Tsering. I kept looking at him. I thought
maybe I just want it to be him."
He said his relationship
with Tsering Sherpa had been "a real bonding of sorts. These guys, they'll
do anything in the world for you. He told me stories. He told me about the
culture. He really introduced me to the Sherpa people."
The two men soon were
talking and visiting about their last trip. Tsering Sherpa then was
assigned to oversee the porters who would carry Mr. Rodgers' doko up the
trail. It brought back a flood of memories.
"Some of my fondest
memories are of him coming into the teahouses where we stayed and saying,
'Wake up, Geno. Time to see the mountain,' " Mr. Rodgers said.
"It feels really neat to
be here anyway, but to see him is a really, really neat way to begin the
Tsering Sherpa helped
oversee the weaving of Mr. Rodgers' doko Thursday, and when Mr. Rodgers
saw him carrying it around the group's campsite in Lukla, "all the sudden,
I was so relieved that he was here. I knew things were going to be all
Even before the group
began moving down the trail, Mr. Rodgers said, the spectacular vistas of
sheer mountains all around and the physical sensation of being at a high
altitude had already struck him profoundly.
"When I was here before
at the lower elevations, the peaks of the mountains were obscured by the
clouds," he said. "There's no photograph in the world that could touch
someone like being here can. Being at this elevation, the air tastes
better. Everything feels different."
On Friday, he said, he
was even more moved by the efforts of Tsering Sherpa and his porters as
they hiked about five hours into a valley of settlements beside the Dudh
Kosi River before the trekking group arrived in its camp in the village of
"When you're on the
trail, we might be on the edge of a cliff. But these guys have absolutely
no fear whatsoever," he said. "These guys are like supermen."
Several porters took
turns carrying Mr. Rodgers through the day, and Tsering Sherpa walked
nearby, "watching everything and watching me at the same time. They know
everything that's going on."
Only two days into the
weeks-long trek, Mr. Rodgers said, he knows that his time with Tsering
Sherpa and the chance to revisit the Sherpa culture will be among his most
"Just from observation,
knowing little about the culture, it seems to me that the Sherpa life is
built around service to each other and their fellow men and to their
religious faith. If you see them working with me, they're constantly
my clothes, or shifting me so I'm sitting properly in the doko," Mr.
"You can see they're not
at all afraid to touch me as if they know me as a brother or a close
friend. You compare that to the United States: People don't want to get
involved. They don't want to get close to someone in a wheelchair, someone
so physically different.
"It really is
liberating," he said. "You could teach people in other parts of the world
how to go through the motions that these guys do, but you can't make them
have their compassion."